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  • Writer's pictureBrian Burns

How You Can Sell Don Draper from Mad Men.

Recently I got to sit down with Josh Weltman, who most of you know as one of the co-producers and the advertising consultant for Mad Men. He stopped by the show to talk about his work in advertising, the best practices, and his new book Seducing Strangers: How to Get People to Buy What You’re Selling.

Josh spent 25-30 years in advertising building campaigns and ads for companies like Pepsi, Microsoft, etc. and spent years as the advertising consultant for seven seasons of Mad Men. His job was to explain to showrunners how advertising works. The interest in advertising thanks to the show led to the book and started his firm, Walker Weltman. He got into advertising after coming out of art school and got a job working on the letters page of the LA Weekly taking over the spot of the future Simpsons producer. The work helped him put a spec book together and pounded the pavement to find jobs in advertising. Why did he stay in LA instead of heading over to New York? Because Manhattan, he said, had a “level of silliness and screaming” as opposed to the west coast’s openness and less hierarchical structures.He believes the system is simple: there are the creatives and people who sell the creative’s work, or rather the creatives have to sell their work and meet client’s expectations, or it doesn’t sell.

He decided to write the book when people got interested in advertising through the show’s backdrop in a 1960s advertising firm. “The advertising was like the medical writing on ER,” he said of the advertising presence in the show. It wasn’t the plot, but it did get people interested. Advertising is less “mind control and lying,” and more “listening and discovering what motivates people” depending on how you see it and Josh firmly believes in the latter. The interesting thing, he says, is that these services, such as Yahoo, Google, etc. had different benefits for different people, and he based one of the ads on a friend’s father who discovered a treatment for his brain cancer and added two years to his life which is obviously very different than searching for a cheap pair of Doc Martin’s. So during Mad Man, they were looking at products and services that would allow Don to use his own life story (which at the time involved a failing marriage and his brother’s suicide) to benefit the promotion of these products. People need to get at the emotion their product elicits. Which is something I’ve said time and again on the show?

Advertising is different than entertainment because you can use business needs to hold it at arm’s lengths. You don’t have to sink your heart and soul into work like in entertainment.

So how did writing the book go? Well as an art director he can talk well about art, but writing is a struggle. His old writing partner helped him edit the essays while his agent tasked him with asking “who cares?” at the beginning of every essay that filled the pages of the book. Dozens of essays were dropped because they didn’t pass the “who cares?” test. He also utilized Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and worked from a tight outline of how to explain the ideas of messages and how it leads to business results.

One of the main messages he has is getting people to project success in their mind’s eye and then work backward from that to see how you got there. What does success look like? Lines in front of a restaurant, a 40% product mix? You have to figure out, essentially, what the bonus is based on. He referenced how he once had a client say “I need to advance in all directions at all times” to which he responded, “I’ve never had a better definition of ‘holding still’ in my life.” Ultimately that client didn’t work out, but it was an example of how not to visualize success. Trying to do too many things at once or having preconceived notions about customers can irritate Josh and compares the mentality to manipulating lab rats. Ultimately the right match for his agency would be CEO’s excited about doing something dangerous to their industry.

Let me know your thoughts and some stories of your own in advertising or what you learned from watching Mad Men in the comments. Like and share and if you want to learn more about the best ways to get people to buy what you’re selling check out my PodCasts "The B2B Revenue Leadership Show" and “The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling.”

Thanks for stopping by,


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